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EU and US Free Trade Talks Could Close by Summer

Now that elections are near, the European Union is looking to tie up talks with the U.S. by this summer on a free trade agreement that will promote economic growth for both parties.

Talks have been ongoing for more than two years, but EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said, “We have to be approaching an endgame by the summer,” Reuters reported. Waiting for a new president to take office and weigh in on the agreement—possibly putting forth varied objectives—could delay the deal.

The TTIP will provide each market increased access to the other, boost trade for domestic-made goods and services, and add jobs.

As the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) puts it, beyond supporting economic growth and creating jobs, “T-TIP will be a cutting edge agreement aimed at providing greater compatibility and transparency in trade and investment regulation, while maintaining high levels of health, safety and environmental protection.”

One thing U.S. apparel organizations want from the agreement is simplified garment labeling rules to enable efficient cross-regional trade. If label languages were simplified and care symbols were harmonized, for example, a product that wasn’t selling well in Europe could be transferred to the U.S., or vice-versa—whichever market was the best for the good.

Additional rounds of TTIP talks are scheduled for February, April and July.

At this month’s talks, the parties are expected to discuss the services sector and the EU’s proposal for an Investment Court System, which it hopes would be a “new and more transparent” way to resolve disputes between investors and states.

The investor-state subject has been one of the more contentious in the TTIP negotiations and talks have been on hold since March 2014. Investor-state rules are in place to protect foreign companies from mistreatment by host nations and provide for compensation if assets are taken over. The EU’s new proposal, which it presented to the U.S. in November, aims to make the process more impartial as critics, according to Reuters, have said the current system allows multinationals the right to challenge regulations governing the environment or public health.

Malmström said she won’t consider a slimmed-down deal if talks should stall.

“I have no other mandate for a balanced, comprehensive and fair deal with the American counterparts…Everything is intertwined you can’t really take out this part and deal with it later,” Reuters reported the trade commissioner as saying.